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You can actually invest in most securities yourself, without using the services of a broker.  But brokers offer convenient trading services for buyers and sellers of corporate stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other securities.  If you invest in these types of securities, you will probably wish to establish an account with a brokerage firm.

Discount brokers are usually paid on a salaried basis while the brokers at traditional brokerage firms are generally paid on a commissioned basis.  A salaried broker is less likely than a commissioned broker to encourage frequent trades that are not in the investor's best interest.  For do-it-yourself investors, online brokerage accounts are available, which charge a low fee per trade.  Some brokers offer more than one type of brokerage account.

investment broker watching stock prices Of course, your best defense in having a good investment experience is choosing the right investment broker.  Considering that investment brokers are handling your money, it's important to choose one who will help you navigate the world of securities, while helping you avoid pitfalls and make a profit.

One of the first choices you'll have to make is whether you go with a discount firm or a full-service broker.  Going with a discount firm means you will have online trading access and may even be able to speak with a live broker by phone.  If you are a savvy investor with some experience, going the discount route is a cost-effective option.  However, a full-service firm will give you access to a personal advisor who can help you balance your portfolio.

It's a good idea to compare the fees charged by different companies.  Commissions, maintenance fees, and margin rates, as well as inactivity fees and incidental fees, are different types of fees charged by brokerage firms.  You'll also want to check whether the broker charges a fee on no-load funds, and how high the money market account yield is compared to those of other brokerages.  If you are unable to determine the best deal for you, you are in good company.  Fee structures can be quite bewildering, but a representative can help you with your choice.  Be sure to find out how much it costs to transfer money out of your account, and whether you need to carry a minimum balance.

stock market bidding Be sure to consider what securities the investment brokerage firm offers, because some brokers don't have a good selection of all the stocks, bonds, and mutual funds you might be interested in.  Some companies, for example, don't allow the trading of bonds and options, while others boast a wide array of fund choices.  Be wary of any firm that steers you toward loaded funds so that they get their fee, despite whether or not you meet your investment goals. features a directory of selected investment brokers and investment resources.  Be sure to compare the brokers listed below, and examine their entire fee schedules before establishing an investment account with a particular broker.

Investment Brokers

  • Edward Jones
    This full service brokerage firm maintains offices all over the USA.
  • TradeStation Securities
    This direct access broker is used for strategy testing and automated execution.
  • Fidelity Investments
    Offers financial planning, trading, and investment products and services for the individual investor.
  • Lime Brokerage
    This direct access broker features brokerage services for automated and sophisticated traders.
  • Friedman Billings Ramsey
    Investment banking, institutional brokerage, asset management, and private client services.
  • Knight Trading Group
    Innovative trade execution solutions for broker-dealers and institutional investors in equities and derivatives.

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Online Investment Brokers

  • Charles Schwab
    This financial services firm offers online trading and investing solutions.
  • Scottrade
    This discount online trading service does not provide investment advice.
  • TD Ameritrade
    This investor services firm has nationwide branch offices.  Their online trading platform can make the process of securities trading simple, convenient, and cost-effective.
  • e*Trade Financial
    This brokerage service specializes in providing experienced investors with low rates and powerful investment tools.
  • WR Hambrecht + Co
    This financial services firm offers Internet-based auctions for issuers and investors.
  • Merrill Edge
    This direct broker offers online trading, research, real-time account info, investment tools, and services.
  • Muriel Siebert
    This retail discount brokerage firm features an active capital markets division.
  • MarketAxess
    Electronic bond trading for institutional investors active in the credit markets.
  • T. Rowe Price
    This Maryland-based investment management firm offers individuals and institutions around the world investment management guidance and expertise.
  • Vanguard
    Leading investment management company offers services to individual investors, institutions and financial professionals.

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